I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last few months talking about various aspects of Star Trek and even provided a few recommendations of places that you, as a new viewer, could jump into this massive franchise that has been going for half a century now. I have not, however, said anything about why you should give Star Trek some (or possibly A LOT) of your precious time.
And the truth is that I can’t. There are many possible reasons, but only you can decide whether Star Trek or possibly a particular Star Trek series or film is going to speak to you. Last Sunday I wrote THIS POST discussing how a particular take on characters or a property may not appeal to someone, even someone who was formerly a fan.
Will Star Trek appeal to you? I have no idea.
I can, however, tell you why it appeals to me.
I was born in the mid-1970s, and when Star Wars was released in 1977, it hit me hard. HARD. Despite my young age, I was complete enthralled. Obsessed really. Once it was released on VHS in the 80’s, my parents bought me a previously viewed copy, and I would become incensed if anyone didn’t want to watch it or worse fell asleep during the movie! That actually happened. I couldn’t believe it! Young me really needed to calm down a bit.
My first exposure to Star Trek was 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which I saw for the first time on home video. I know my parents also took me to see Star Trek III: The Search for Spock in the theater when it came out in 1984, but I’m not sure why, since they have never shown any interest in Star Trek. My guess is that, since it was a space movie, they figured I would like it.
I remember being aware that there was an older Star Trek television series, but I had the impression that every episode was just Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beaming down to some planet and getting captured (Yes, that does happen sometimes, but it’s not every episode.).
Then in 1986 my family moved to a new state. I was not happy about it (This may also be a massive understatement.). In order to get revenge on my parents for this terrible event, I decided to make my own life miserable by being anti-social at school. Oddly enough, this brilliant plan failed. However, while I was in the midst of it, I needed something to fill the time that was now free thanks to the whole “refusing to have any friends” thing I was working on.
That’s when I really discovered Star Trek. A local channel showed the original series everyday at 5PM, and I got hooked. Why I got hooked (which was really the whole point of this thing) really comes down to a single word:
Star Trek isn’t set long ago in a galaxy far away. It’s the future. OUR future. Just a few hundred years from now.
Also, the characters aren’t battling some oppressive empire that wants them destroyed (As much as I loved Star Wars as a kid, I realize now that I would not want to live in that universe. Spending my days living under the yoke of the Empire does not sound fun.). The crew of the Enterprise are explorers. They seek knowledge rather than victory.
In Star Trek, science and technology have made all our lives better. Resources are now plentiful on Earth. Poverty and disease have been practically eradicated. People are free to pursue the activities that they find personally fulfilling. As a result of our lives being better, humanity has become better. We want to learn, to explore, and to further enrich ourselves, not financially but intellectually and emotionally.
The heroes in Star Trek are scientists. Captain Kirk may be good with a phaser, his fists, and that drop kick (Seriously, I love the drop kick), but those are his last resort, not his first. When encountering the unknown, he’s going to turn to his science officer, Spock, first. He’s there to understand, not destroy. He wants to see the galaxy. That “explore strange new worlds” and “seek out new life and new civilizations” bit he talks about in the show’s opening credits is not just a bunch of empty platitudes to him or his crew.
All of that was and still is appealing to me. Star Trek has its share of action and excitement, but it also shows me a future I want to live in. It gives me something to strive for. Sure I’d love the technology they have, but even more I want to be the kind of person they are, and I wish the rest of humanity would take on the ethos seen on Star Trek as well. Early in my relationship with my now ex-wife, we showed each other the films and TV shows that meant something to us. After watching a bit of Star Trek: The Next Generation with me, she told me that she could see why I like the show. According to her, all of the characters shared aspects of my personality. I took that as a wonderful complement, but I think she got the cause and effect reversed.
Star Trek showed me the type of person that I wanted to be. I took the morality and respect for intelligence and other life forms to heart. I didn’t just happen to run across a TV show that reflected who I already was. Star Trek shaped me into who I am now.
I know that sounds like I’m giving too much credit to a television series, and I fully acknowledge that my parents are great people who also taught me many of the same ideals. Star Trek, though, showed me with each episode why it was so important. If I could become that sort of person, perhaps a wonderful future awaited us.
I like to think that it still does. But until we get there, I’m glad I have Star Trek to keep me dreaming of what we can become.
- Alan Decker
@CmdrAJD on Twitter